Monday, January 18, 2010

Newbery Announcement Day

Like much of the children's book world, in 45 minutes I'll be listening to the announcement, from ALA in Boston, of this year's Newbery Medal announcement, as well as the Caldecott, Printz, Coretta Scott King, and other major children's literature awards. This year I followed the buzz around the Newbery more than in past years, reading the posts on Jonathan Hunt's Heavy Medal blog and paying attention to the results of various Mock-Newbery polls around the country. And although my name has never been mentioned as a serious contender, ever, it was tantalizing to read Hunt's catalog of how many starred reviews each Newbery Medal and Newbery Honor book had received over the past decade, and to learn that in 2007 two of the Newbery Honor books had received NO STARRED REVIEWS AT ALL. That means that any unrecognized and uncelebrated author can hope. And heck, How Oliver Olson Changed the World received one starred review, and was on the Bulletin's Blue Ribbon list, and was named one of the 100 best titles of the year by the New York Public Library, and is a finalist for a Cybil award.

But, unsurprisingly, it didn't win the Newbery. They would have called me by now to tell me. For the thirtieth year in a row, since I've been writing and publishing children's books, I didn't get The Call.

So I went to my trusty little notebook where I write down all my good advice to myself and made some notes. My writer friend Cheri Earl has concluded from all the Newbery buzz that she will never allow herself to be influenced in anything she writes by thinking about whether it will win the Newbery. Cheri said, in her post on the terrific Throwing Up Words blog: "The promise of billions or winning a random chance award or even the lure of publication will never influence what I choose to write or why I choose to write." That would be a good thing for me to tell myself, too.

But mainly I'm telling myself that I cannot expect my life to change as a result of some one-in-a-million chance, a bolt-out-of-the-blue miracle. If I want my life to change, if I want to make my life be more the way I want it to be, it's going to have to be through taking small positive and constructive steps every day. And the most important of these is simply: write.

It's been fun following the Newbery buzz, and I can't wait to hear the announcement - now in thirty minutes! But what will give me the life I want to have is simply the writing itself. So as soon as the announcement is over, I'm going to make myself a cup of Swiss Miss hot chocolate, get out my favorite Pilot Razor Point fine-tipped black marker pen, and a blank pad of paper, and I'm going to write page 1 of my new chapter book. I have all day off today for the MLK holiday. My goal is to have a first five-page chapter to share with my writing group tonight. That is the gold sticker I'm going to give myself. I may not have written the most distinguished book of the year, but I can distinguish today for myself by writing.


  1. Claudia this is a beautiful yet bitter-sweet letter to the ether. You know how I envy your discipline and now here you are, throwing off the world's accolades and writing not one page today but five and letting the chips fall where they may all the while. Another thing: your five pages are probably like my five pages on Crack. So there's that.

    Thirty years a writer? That's remarkable on so many levels and I am so in awe of your talent and tenacity. You're my hero.

    And let's not forget what won the Newbery last year . . . after all.

  2. Thank you, wise and wonderful Cheri. I have to confess I haven't yet read WHEN YOU REACH ME, but I've heard it's terrific, one of the best Newberies ever. But yes, last year. . . For my comments on THAT one, see my blog entry "Back from Paradise" in my August posts.